“For the man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny”- Wole Soyinka
As far as I can remember, I have known the National Broadcasting Corporation ( NBC ) to be an appendage of the Government. No joke- this is my new slang nowadays. Many may think I am making quite an allegation and I will prove it with this short story here.
Exactly 1st March 2019 was when JayFM in Jos, Plateau State was shutdown. This was after a few cases of Buhari’s administration in first term gagged the press and several literature, pieces and articles were put out to demand press freedom. I was one of those writers who chronicled several instances and timelines of journalists and their outfits gagged over the four year administration. My Editor then warned me to be careful of the consistency of those literatures until JayFM- my favourite radio station was given the axe by the same NBC, the only difference was that this was from the Jos division.
So I did some investigative journalism. I dived down to a trusted staff- I bet she knows herself and will most probably read this. Not like I trust her that much, but we worked together for a few months and she was the loyal staff or loyal servant so to say of her workplace. The investigation was purely oral; I asked her a few questions and rattled on like a detective. She eventually broke and told me JayFM was shutdown on the basis of an executive order from the Presidency directly.
Here is what happened, 25,000 votes of PDP were unjustly cancelled and the people of Jos, mostly known for their distaste against the APC and new love for PDP were angry, perturbed and very disturbed. They didn’t want the gubernatorial election to go the way of the general elections. I can say that because I have published a few stories and conducted interviews during, before and after the 2019 General Elections. But the worst happened, the INEC officials planned a new trick off their sleeves and got the votes cancelled at Kabon.
Unrest grew and JayFM granted angry folks the interview. That was where NBC struck. Their narrative is always the same- they said JayFM has been called to order severally. They fined them a #100,000 and couldn’t even wait for them to pay it or the two week deadline to lapse when they shut JayFM down. They just opened a few weeks ago, grounding the elite station for more than three months and causing dissent and distrust at State and Federal level.
So my NBC source told me it was planned work. One that led the Governor of the state to report the matter to the “Oga at the top” and DSS officials were immediately deployed to do the dirty job. The DSS were from the Presidency, she remarked. Since February till now, I could never forget all the words said in that heated fashion. Few days ago, it was DAAR Communications- if you check the story above from four months ago and what happened over the past few days- you will find the method, the same.
One article like this- well written with constructive criticism or a broadcast could annoy anybody in the Presidency and a warrant could immediately crop up for your arrest. It is as simple as that- cause and effect. But how long are going to continue like this? How long are we going to continue with leaders that lack emotional intelligence over constructive criticism or pure bashing- if all instituted machinery of the state has failed to grant justice, must the press go down with it?
I know several will be eager to know what I think of the allegations against Raymond Dokpesi who not only operates without a licence but hasn’t paid salaries. The real reading to this is that he doesn’t pay license fees as at when due. On one hand, we can say they are rumours- isn’t it high time evidences are brought? On the other hand, the blame still stylishly links back to the Government we operate which doesn’t absolve the Presidency from the blame. It would be worthy to note however, that DAAR Communications is a private entity and no one knows what kind of agreement the owner and his employees enter into while signing a contract.
There are jobs that place people on little or no pay, some place workers on internships unpaid- this is a system mostly predominant in Nigeria especially in the media where you can graduate from an unpaid intern to a freelancer without pay and yet still survive on brown envelopes- mostly because the contract stipulates interns not to be paid and as an ambitious reporter, you are hoping to break your way into the industry. What you become then, might not be the employer’s guise.
On the other hand, if he owes salaries, don’t other states owe salaries after receiving millions of money for bailouts? What is the essence of a state or having a Governor at the helm of affairs if you can’t even do the basic duty of paying salaries? Aren’t you reflecting a system you accommodate? If that exonerates Dokpesi, then let him be. Besides, we have several media establishments not fit to be in existence, but they exist everyday, operating from a mini-warehouse or workspace with as little as a Wi-Fi, internet and an air conditioned room. You can start your internet radio from there like Radio Biafra or the Cattle Herders one currently in the works, or one start-up like that I once freelanced for that paid a meagre fraction of a salary agreed without any contract that I couldn’t sue them. How many online newspapers then have licences? NUJ does nothing and your Government allows them thrive, also doing nothing!
Is Dokpesi exonerated? I think he is. I will never be the man to judge what he does with his journalism, business or political life history, or dashing personality- let it be known that I am not a fan, just saying the truth as it, annoying as it maybe.
I believe the journalism we practice today is a product of the system we get like one Nation Newspaper columnist- Olatunji Ololade once said. We operate a lawless system, where leaders bypass judicial injunctions, refuse to let the constitution take its due course, deal with any political paperweight in the way, disregard the principle of rule of law and separation of powers, practice utter sheer recklessness, fuel insurgency, tribal wars and massive insecurity, stifle economic policies, parade irresponsible and untrained police force and allow a massive descent into a state of anarchy. That is why people cannot be challenged or held accountable and this conspiracy of silence has rendered the media into an enemy of the state, such that every criticism or white wash is perceived in the wrong quarters without due introspection into the matter at hand.
The media has suddenly descended into a toothless bulldog- with nobody to regulate the rights and wrongs. Government interference and torture of its image-makers haven’t made them the better side in this full-fledged war, better described as a pig fight. Nobody fights a pig and doesn’t get dirty. The media is a reflection of the fear of the average Nigerian hence the rise of the social media, which has become a haven for the average Nigerian to air his views. There is distrust, bias, money changing hands and a press that is divorced of the people- so Twitter speak has become the language for every enlightened, educated Nigerian, and I don’t blame them.
We all share the same conspiracy of silence- scared to talk to the press, the press are scared to play their roles as watchdog and agenda setters, the Government continues to chase every reporter behind a laptop screen, people are encouraged to speak in low and hushed tones while addressing their grievances on radio and TV, hence Twitter has become an haven, Facebook has become more accommodating- but this will never help us build the Nigeria of our dreams.
For the man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.